While walking around the Flora-Bama, I heard one of the musicians begin playing "Ode to Billie Joe." Though I probably haven't heard this song in at least 20 years, I immediately recognized it from when my older sister used to sing it.
The song is a Southern Gothic story about the singer and a boy named Billy Joe McAllister. I never understood what the two were throwing off the bridge or why Billie Joe jumped, but now I understand that that is one of the main discussions surrounding this song.
The song was written and recorded in 1967 by Bobbie Gentry, from Chickasaw County, Mississippi. The single was a number-one hit in the United States, and became a big international seller. The recording of "Ode to Billie Joe" generated eight Grammy nominations, resulting in three wins for Gentry. Rolling Stone later went on to rank the song #47 on its list of the 100 greatest country songs of all time in June 2014.
(See below to read more about Bobbie today)
After purchasing a home in L.A. from Lisa Marie Presley, Gentry continued to record several popular duets. She eventually had a son and retired to Savannah, Ga. She grants no interviews and has rarely made public appearances. When asked about her decision, well-known producer Jimmie Haskell commented, “Bobbie was always little more exclusive and a little more reclusive. Leading up to ‘Billie Joe’, she was just trying to make it. I don’t suppose she ever really changed -- except she could simply afford to become more private."
Aside from her immediate family or close relatives in the music, Gentry has discontinued communication with those who knew her in the music industry. However, her songwriting has been covered by a variety of female country singers in recent decades -- with some covers charting higher than the original recordings.
Posts are a combination of my own research, visits, and conversations, plus various information found around the web. I try to provide sources, but if you have specific questions, feel free to ask!